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Building Blocks of Community III: A Holy Household, II

As we consider the household of Stephanas, I want us to notice three things about a holy household. First, a holy household converts, second, a holy household serves, and third, a holy household submits, or subjects itself to follow the example of other holy households.

Paul begins these verses by saying “I urge you, brothers”. He is going to exhort the church at Corinth, but he breaks off before he tells them what he’s going to urge them to do. Paul interrupts himself in order to bring Stephanas and his household into everyone’s mind. He reminds them of this particular household’s unique position: this was the first household in Achaia to convert to Christianity.

Stephanas led his entire household to turn from idolatry to believing the gospel, believing that Jesus Christ was the perfect substitute who paid the penalty for human sin by dying on the cross and rising again to become king over heaven and earth. The household of Stephanas turned away from trying to please the gods and earn their favor through sacrifice and good deeds and all the rest, and began trusting in Christ alone to make them acceptable to God. The first thing a holy household does is to convert; turning away from idolatry, and turning towards belief in Jesus Christ for salvation. A holy household converts and believes the gospel.

The second thing I want us to see about a holy household is what Stephanas’ household proceeded to do once they were converted. Standing on the foundation of Christ, the text says that they devoted themselves to the service of the saints. Another translation might be that they appointed themselves to service, highlighting the fact that they didn’t wait to be assigned tasks; they went looking for opportunities to serve. They didn’t need to be asked, they went to the back of the church and found the clipboards and signed themselves up.

This is especially worthy of admiration because of their position as firstfruits – instead of casting themselves in the role of leaders or benefactors, and patting themselves on the back for the risks that they took, they showed that they really believed in Jesus by following Jesus’ example of service. They didn’t think that the church existed to offer them goods and services; they saw the saints as people to spend their lives for. Their attitude was all about giving, not getting. A holy household serves the saints.

A wise head of household knows how to run the place so that all things are done well. And Paul identifies one such household to the Corinthians and tells them to submit themselves or subject themselves to such. Paul tells the Corinthians that just as Stephanas’ household appointed themselves to service, now you appoint yourselves under them. Holy households subject themselves to other holy households.

What does that mean? It means to acknowledge the excellence of their household management, and to listen to them when they give you encouragement and instruction. Enroll in their school of householding, run the plays from their household playbook. Paul is in effect saying, “See how Stephanus runs his household? Do it like he does.” Not in slavish copying, but in wise imitation. Learn how they do family worship, and try it out. Watch how they discipline the kids, and do that. Take note of how they serve, and seek to develop that kind of servant heart, too.

What you are really doing when you do this is finding households that put Jesus on display: they have converted to belief in Jesus, and they are seeking to live like Jesus. Paul is not ultimately pointing to Stephanas; he is pointing to Jesus Christ, shining forth in the life of the household of Stephanas. The goal of your household is to embody and reflect the glory of Jesus Christ, and Paul is telling you how to do it: Recognize those who are doing it well, and follow in their footsteps as they follow Christ.

Posted on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 by CJ Bowen